By Prarthana Mitra
The Sabarimala Temple in Kerala has been in the news for the better part of this year, but since Thursday, it became the locus of a historic standoff.
On one side, guardians of the shrine firmly defended the “sanctity” of Lord Ayappa’s religion from women of childbearing age, and on the other side, masses of women made their way to their way to the sanctum for the first time in history, embolden by the Supreme Court’s lifting of the ban last month.
Here’s what went down on Thursday
On Thursday, as the temple reluctantly opened its gates to women, the fanatic mob resorted to heckling and intimidating female journalists devotees, turning them back from the 7km trek to the hilltop shrine.
As the tantri (head priest) threatened to shut the doors of the shrine if any woman between the age of 10-50 enter the temple, the mob multiplied until two women making the climb, both journalists for The New York Times, were pelted with rocks, despite being accompanied by two dozen police officers.
Women’s march halted
Undeterred by the arrests made on Thursday, various religious groups took their position early on Friday, at Nilkkal where the trek begins
Activist Rehana Fathima who made an attempt to enter Sabarimala temple with journalist Kavitha Jakkal were forced to return after the priest of the temple refused to open the temple for them. Activist Trupti Desai was detained by police, earlier this morning, reported ANI.
Protesters, joined by thousands of women, also stopped vehicles they suspected were ferrying women after occupying streets earlier this month, to object to the SC verdict which forbids the temple board to discriminate on the basis of physiological phenomena and ruled that women have the fundamental right to pray that is not contingent upon esoteric religious practices.
The board and the government react
To end the standoff, Travancore Devaswom Board has appointed Congress spokesperson and lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi to file their review petition in the Supreme Court. “Sabarimala should not be used as a hot bed for politics… We want peace… we don’t want Sabarimala to be a protest site…” temple board President A Padmakumar said.
According to latest reports, the left government led by Pinarayi Vijayan bowed to Hindu sentiments in an unprecedented move, a day after CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury accused the RSS and Congress of playing vote bank politics and “brainwashing people in the name of religion.” The state government announced late Friday that it would back the board’s decision to file the review and challenge SC’s decision.
In a letter dated, 16 Oct MHA had asked Chief Secretaries&DGPs of Kerala, Tamil Nadu&Karnataka to take necessary measures to maintain law&order & 'prevent any untoward incident'. Letter also states 'Hindu outfits plan to organise protest prog on 17.10 at Nilakkal&Erumali village' pic.twitter.com/9CjsEjdDZz
— ANI (@ANI) October 19, 2018
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.
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